Jessica Nigri as Overwatch's Reinhardt – photo by Martin Wong
I didn't know what to expect as I stumbled onto my 5 AM bus headed for Washington D.C. on a cold Friday morning. My head still in disarray from Japanese class earlier that week, I just prayed I wouldn't need to use it over the weekend.
Fortunately enough, a lot of what I learned about Katsucon 2017 didn't come to me by means of speaking. The anime convention, held along the D.C.'s National Harbor from February 17th to the 19th, was a testament to the blood, sweat, and tears put into a craft that many would consider unconventional.
As soon as you walk into the Gaylord Convention Center you're greeted by a tremendous swath of blinding light cast by the sun through the enormous glass wall on the far side. The light bounces from the white marble underneath your feet, adding extra incentive to strike your best costumed pose. Needless to say, no cosplayer missed out on the opportunity.
The floors below hid a miniature village of sorts stashed with brick streets, restaurants, a light-up fountain, and trees in flowerpots. As you journey outside a grassy hill runs toward the river, which you can walk along to the town nearby.
The venue itself housed multiple wings for Katsucon's programming, of which the event's planners knew very well how to utilize to their best advantage. To my disbelief, there was something going on at any point in time – even if it was just a screening.
In terms of the panels themselves, some were interesting enough to warrant a visit, but none really grabbed my attention long enough to make me stay for the entire hour. "Skin Deep: A Look at Diversity in Japanese Pop Culture", for example, was an interesting discussion on a topic that isn't widely spoken of in the community, but technical issues kept it from being better than what it was. In general, most panels didn't focus on something one typically wouldn't see at an anime convention – a disappointment considering how exciting the venue itself was.
Guests too were not as great as they could've been, and especially inconvenient for members of the press to get a hold of. My partner and I had to continuously travel back and forth to Press Operations for an update on the whereabouts of guest interviews, and even then we were only able to catch two of them.
Mishandling of guests wasn't the only problem Katsucon's staff had to deal with either, as those attendees that bought VIP tickets were misinformed of meet and greets on the first day. Though this was quickly amended by the second day, the disorganization of operations was unfortunate considering that one day is for many half of their entire stay.
What's most apparent to me as a first time visitor of the convention is that Katsucon is definitely not for everyone. If you're not among most people there in cosplay, you'd frequently kick yourself for forgetting your rainbow colored wig at home. Dressing as a regular person is just lonely, and there's very little to take up your time if you're not suiting up for your next photo shoot.
This being said, being in cosplay is an entirely different story, as you'll often find yourself in meet-ups for your favorite show and feel good knowing you're not actually the only person in the planet that watches Selector Infected WIXOSS. It makes you want to make better costumes for your next convention, and more dedicated to being an otaku in general.
In summation, I'd say that Katsucon is definitely worth a visit, at least just once. If you're someone who's middle name is cosplay, then it's a must-go. Though there are better options for people not as interested in dressing up, having a safe haven for all members of the community to gather and share interests is important, and I hope Katsucon does its best in the future.